Table-topping rivals Lansdowne and Garryowen meet in a crucial clash at Dooradoyle on Saturday as the Ulster Bank League swings back into town. Bateman Cup finalists St. Mary’s College and Cork Constitution will also be battling it out for Division 1A points.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, January 26
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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DOLPHIN (6th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (3rd), Musgrave Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dolphin: LWWWLLWL; Young Munster: WWLLWLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 71; Tries: Harry Fleming, Rory Scannell 2 each; Young Munster: Points; Brian Haugh 93; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 4
Preview: This is potentially a tough match for third-placed Young Munster as they attempt to keep the pressure on the two leaders Lansdowne and Garryowen.
Dolphin will be keen to put the memory of their most recent 37-7 defeat to Lansdowne behind them. They did not play at all well on the artificial pitch at the Aviva Stadium after getting off to a great start.
They are capable of a lot better, particulary on their home ground. But they are going to have to perform exceptionally well to beat Young Munster.
The Limerick outfit have been in tremendous form in their last two games, beating Lansdowne and then demolishing Old Belvedere 40-3.
Darragh O’Neill poses a big threat to Dolphin while place-kicking scrum half Brian Haugh has shown fine form throughout the season.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 14, 2012: Dolphin 26 Young Munster 20, Musgrave Park; Saturday, April 14, 2012: Young Munster 32 Dolphin 24, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 6-10 points
GARRYOWEN (2nd) v LANSDOWNE (1st), Dooradoyle
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Garryowen: WWWLWWWW; Lansdowne: WWWLWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Jamie Gavin 89; Tries: Barry O’Mahony 4; Lansdowne: Points: Craig Ronaldson 93; Tries: Cian Aherne 8
Preview: One of the matches of the season to date between the two teams locked together at the top of the table. Currently, Lansdowne are only in front on scoring difference.
But Tom Tierney’s Garryowen have actually won one game more. They certainly will not be lacking in confidence having travelled to Temple Hill to beat Cork Constitution 20-14 last time out.
That they should lose out on top spot after such a fine effort hardly seemed fair but Lansdowne’s ability to secure bonus points enabled them to just edge in front of their rivals. They looked very good when scoring five tries in their 37-7 demolition of Dolphin with their Leinster scrum half John Cooney crossing twice.
Significantly though, they have not been as impressive away from home, losing to Young Munster in their last game on the road.
So, Garryowen would appear to be in with a real chance, particularly if they can repeat the form which saw them defeat Cork Con.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 7, 2012: Lansdowne 30 Garryowen 13, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday, February 11, 2012: Garryowen 38 Lansdowne 11, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win by 1-5 points
OLD BELVEDERE (7th) v UL BOHEMIANS (9th), Anglesea Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Old Belvedere: LLLWWWLL; UL Bohemians: LWLWLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Josh Glynn 39; Tries: Daniel Riordan 6; UL Bohemians: Points: JJ Hanrahan 42; Tries: Rory White, Mossy Lawler 3 each
Preview: Two sides badly in need of a victory. UL Bohemians, in particular, are going through a bad patch. Their 16-8 defeat to Shannon means that they are now only four points ahead of their Limerick rivals at the bottom of the table.
Old Belvedere, for their part, lie fourth from bottom, seven points ahead of UL Bohs. Their coach Andy Dunne will, no doubt, be targeting this game as a ‘must win’ encounter.
His team are well capable of playing some good football in front of their home fans, as they demonstrated when hammering Cork Constitution 44-13 in November.
But their most recent effort, a 40-3 loss away to Young Munster was a big disapointment. They will need to pick up considerably from that if they are to return to winning form.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 19, 2008: Old Belvedere 33 UL Bohemians 18, Anglesea Road; Saturday, February 21, 2009: UL Bohemians 6 Old Belvedere 13, Annacotty
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win by 1-5 points
SHANNON (10th) v CLONTARF (5th), Coonagh
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Shannon: LLLLLLLW; Clontarf: LLWWLWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Rob Guerin 42; Tries: John Shine 2; Clontarf: Points: Richie Lane 66; Tries: Timmy McCoy 4
Preview: Having at last recorded their first victory of their campaign against UL Bohs, Shannon will be hoping to make it two in-a-row by accounting for last season’s runners-up.
No one will write off their chances as the first victory is bound to have done wonders for their confidence. Furthermore, Clontarf are not firing nearly as well as last season, lying in mid-table after four wins and four defeats.
On the face of it, their 16-3 loss to St. Mary’s last time out looked very bad but the scoreline did Clontarf no favours. Their problem was that they could not translate some good possession into scores.
Tadhg Bennett’s contribution is clearly going to be crucial for Shannon. Clontarf will be looking to their pack to make a big contribution and for Richie Lane to nail the goal-kicking opportunites that come his way.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 26, 2011: Clontarf 29 Shannon 8, Castle Avenue; Saturday, January 28, 2012: Shannon 14 Clontarf 22, Thomond Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win by 1-5 points
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (4th), Templeville Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – St. Mary’s College: WLLLLWLW; Cork Constitution: WLWWWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Gavin Dunne 34; Tries: Robbie Hudson, Kevin Croke 2 each; Cork Constitution: Points: Johnny Holland 54; Tries: Darragh Lyons, Ivan Dineen, Gerry Hurley 3 each
Preview: Cork Constitution have left themselves with a huge amount to do in the title race after losing at home to Garryowen. They now lie nine points behind the two leaders. So, an away win is essential but they can expect absolutely no favours from St. Mary’s.
The defending champions will be anxious to get away from the relegation zone as quickly as possible. After a dismal opening to the season, they showed what they are really capable of by accounting for Clontarf 16-3 at Templeville Road in their last outing.
That was a fine performance which suggests that they are a much better side than their position of third from bottom indicates.
It will be fascinating to see if they can make it two on the trot in what is bound to be a highly competitive encounter.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 14, 2012: St. Mary’s College 21 Cork Constitution 8, Templeville Road; Saturday, March 31, 2012: Cork Constitution 21 St. Mary’s College 23, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 1-5 points